Hosting is an essential part of a website. Without it, your website would just be a bunch of code, but not actually be accessible. A hosting company places your website on their server where others can view it. In this article, we talk about some of the top features a good hosting company should have.
As we wrote about previously, website speed is very important to your audience. It is so important that it can actually affect your ranking with browsers like Google. According to studies, “visitors leave a page that takes longer than three seconds to load.” Three seconds is not a lot of time.
So how does hosting play its part in website speed? When you type in a URL and click enter you are asking the server for information. A good server can relay that information and load the page quickly. If you find your site is loading slowly, this may be a large part of the problem.
Reliability is huge. Your website being down means loss of customers and revenue. Look for a hosting company that has an uptime guarantee of 99%. Having a reliable hosting company will give you peace of mind and give your customers access to your site.
Bandwidth & Space
Bandwidth and Space can be terms you have not heard much about or wondered about. Just like a computer, a website takes space to be stored. You don’t want to have to worry about your website running out of space. Whereas, bandwidth refers to both the amount of data transferred to and from the server to display your website on people’s devices, as well as the speed at which it does all that. If your host caps your bandwidth at an amount too low for the amount of traffic you receive, or does not have enough speed to handle the volume, it can crash your site, or prevent your users from accessing the website. Having unlimited bandwidth and space allows your website to grow and be viewed by unlimited viewers.
Unfortunately “unmetered” bandwidth and “unlimited” space on most hosting is a scam. In our experience, the best hosting companies are usually the ones who place limits on bandwidth and space and are very upfront about that. They’ll outright say that a plan has a maximum of 200k visitors per month, and 40GB of space. If the hosting you’re looking at says “unlimited” or “unmetered,” be wary!
SSL for HTTPS
SSL refers to using https instead of http. It refers to an encrypted link between the browser and web server. Basically, SSL means a more secure site. With Google demanding SSL on all sites by July 2018, it becomes increasingly more important to have access to it. Most middle to high-end hosting companies will offer free SSL through Let’s Encrypt. Paying for hosting and then having to turn around and add on SSL can be pretty frustrating.
PHP Version 7+
Many hosts are still spinning up hosting with old, outdated and not-secure versions of PHP. PHP is the programing language that WordPress is built on. It’s also a part of the software “stack” installed on the hosting to allow WordPress to use PHP. Your hosting should really have you on PHP 7.1 or above, as of this writing. PHP 5.6 is okay, for now, but in 2019 and beyond, everyone should be on PHP 7+.
This is probably the single most important difference in hosting companies. Customer support can set a company apart from others. Hosting companies can offer a variety of service, but if they do not offer 24/7 customer support via at least chat and email (phone is a bonus), then we wouldn’t want to give them a second thought. You need to know your hosting company is accessible at any time because problems don’t just arise M-F between the hours of 8-5.
More importantly, how good is the support they provide? We’ve worked with many hosting companies who’s first level support doesn’t seem to know anything, and we’ve wasted hours only to get referred to their 2nd or 3rd level before we could get anywhere. Great hosting has knowledgeable individuals on the 1st level, who are quick and eager to help.
Backups are your insurance policy. They are needed for when and if the unforeseen occurs. While many hosting companies will offer them as an add-on, a good hosting company will include cloud backups of your website in your hosting package, without any extra setup or fees for you.
Features to Avoid
The old-school thinking is that you want your webhost to also handle your email accounts, domain registration, PHP version 5.5 or lower, and non-WordPress “apps.” These are features you should NOT be looking for in a website host. A webserver is made for serving websites, not for handling email and domain registration. You can do those through a service that specializes in those. We recommend Hover for domain registration and inexpensive but solid email. Or Google Domains and G Suite for a more full-featured email and office productivity suite.
Your webserver should also be running a recent and secure version of PHP, as mentioned. If your website runs on WordPress, you shouldn’t care about any of those other “apps” or website builders and such. It’s all just fluff, designed to distract from the important stuff and make it seem like you’re getting a super great deal.
Beware Low Prices
As we mentioned with “unlimited” bandwidth and space, you should also beware of the low hosting costs! If you have noticed companies that offer to host for $2.75/ mo*, be aware of the asterisk. When reading the fine print you may be surprised that this is an introductory rate for hosting. Once your initial time is up, the monthly payment will balloon. We don’t like ARM loans in the mortgage industry so why would we like it in our hosting plan. To avoid this increase, we suggest you look for a company with straightforward pricing.
Hosts We Recommend
If you want easy answers, here’s some hosts we have experience with and can highly recommend (links are affiliate links, but we recommend them without reservation):
- CloudWays – they’re not the simplest to use, because they support other platforms, not just WordPress. But their support is quite good and they include everything listed above.
- Flywheel – they’re our current favorite WordPress-only hosting for the best balance of price vs features. Their support is incredible, and their interface is simple and easy to use.
- Kinsta – this is the all-around best WordPress hosting you’re going to find imo, but also significantly more expensive than the others.
Need Some Help?
Did you know WordXpress provides many of these services, layered on top of your hosting company? For example, if your hosting doesn’t provide automatic cloud backups, we can provide that for you with one of our memberships. Check out our WordPress management plans, for all the details.